| Slavery has played an important role in Somali Bantu history. In the 19thcentury, Bantu-speaking men, women, and children were taken from East Africa into the Indian Ocean slave trade and sold to Somali plantation owners as agricultural labor. From 1800 to 1890, between 25,000 and 50,000 slaves were absorbed into the Shabeelle River Valley. In the 1840s, the first fugitive slaves from the Shabeelle Valley began making their way south to settle into the uninhabited Jubba River Valley. After arriving in the lower Jubba Valley the fugitive slaves formed villages, cleared farms, and protected themselves from re-enslavement by the Somali pastoralists who lived on the plains on either side of the river valley. Slavery in Southern Somalia lasted until the early 20thcentury. The Jubba Valley became a refuge for former slaves and their descendants, offering the promise of independence, sovereignty from former Somali masters, and escape from the colonial-drafted work parties imposed in the 1930s by Italian colonial authorities.
In 1991, civil war erupted in Somalia after militias ousted Siyad Barre and his tyrannical regime from power. Violence engulfed the country. The calm farming life of the Jubba Valley was disrupted by heavy fighting between militias struggling against each other for power and control over the land and government. Warring militias targeted the sedentary farming villages along the valley, looting farms, stealing village food supplies, and kidnapping farmers for ransom. Many Somali Bantu died while attempting to protect their farms and families. Communities were forced to flee the country, crossing the border into Kenya in hopes of finding protection.
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To learn more about Somali Bantu history:
The Somali Bantu: Their History and Culture Somali Bantu Information
The Somali Bantu Project